As we go through life, we adopt certain believe systems under which we operate. These are called paradigms and they help us make sense of the world around us. The way we think and act is largely based on which paradigms our life is founded on. Think of it as an operating system. This is why a paradigm shift can be so impactful: it can change the very core of what you believe to be true.
Before the paradigm shift
A paradigm shift is nothing that happens over night. In fact, it is nothing we can plan or actively work towards. By definition we believe the existing paradigm to be the right one and therefore cannot imagine anything other than that at that point of time. We just operate under that paradigm and try to optimise it. We try to do the best we can given the mindset, thoughts and skills in place. At some point however, we cannot get better within the paradigm anymore. This is when we are given a choice: we can either accept that we reached the end of the line and stay within that paradigm. Or we can do a paradigm shift.
Doing a paradigm shift
Doing a paradigm shift is hard. It is among the hardest things a human being can do, since it means leaving behind everything your past life was based on. This means changing at a core level and accepting that what you believed to be true might not apply anymore in this new paradigm. It also means being able to truly think outside the box, since you need to envision something that people around you can’t (we tend to surround ourselves with people in the same paradigm). Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and author of ‘Zero to one’, is talking about the importance of these shifts within entrepreneurship all the time:
Our task today is to find singular ways to create the new things that will make the future not just different, but better—to go from 0 to 1… The essential first step is to think for yourself. Only by seeing our world anew, as fresh and strange as it was to the ancients who saw it first, can we both re-create it and preserve it for the future.
It usually starts with noticing that you want to do things that are not possible with the current mindset. That is where the hard work begins. You need to identify exactly what your goals are and how your current paradigm is stopping you from accomplishing those. Next, you need to identify how you need to change your mindset in order to get where you want to go. Don’t be prejudiced, question everything. Eventually you will find core believes – either about yourself or the world around you – that you need to change in order to further advance on your path. This is what really happens when someone evolves.
My personal paradigm shift
The last 18 months I was very focused on becoming more productive and not wasting so much time anymore. I set very clear goals in different areas in my life and was determined to execute on them. And guess what – I did! I went to the gym regularly, I read more books, I went to Swedish classes twice a week, I joined a public speaking club, I worked on my business. All these things happened after being done with my full-time job, so I often came home after 9 pm. And what I then did, after I had eaten, was usually to surf the internet and watch Youtube videos until it was time to sleep. I considered this my one or so hour of the day where I could finally relax.
As you can see, even though I had become way more productive my paradigm was still that randomly surfing the internet was what I do to enjoy myself. I had optimised that paradigm, but I was still operating in it. What I needed was a paradigm shift.
So when I noticed this, I asked myself: “Why is it that I still feel like I need time to relax? Why is it that even after doing things that I like all day I still feel like I deserve a ‘break’? A break from what? Why can’t I do awesome stuff the entire day and see this as break, as time to relax? Over time, this paradigm shift helped me make a transition to a mindset where I actively relax when reading, learning or doing sports. I don’t see it as an obligation anymore, I appreciate it as free time. Therefore I don’t abuse the internet anymore to unwind, because I already relaxed most of the day. This is the power of paradigm shifts.